“A Day in the Life” with Dancer and Choreographer Maria Shalvarova

Having met at a ballroom dance camp at the age of seven, Maria Shalvarova and I have been friends ever since. These days, we live about 15 minutes away from each other and see each other at least a few times a week. In the past, however, we lived about 40 minutes away from each other and without our own cars (or even cell phones), it was always difficult to keep up with each other outside of dance class. Being the determined people that we are, we did often defy our parents’ rules and take 2 hour trips on multiple buses to see each other…. I guess you could say we were very committed!

One day, Maria stopped coming to dance altogether, and just like that, we lost touch. It was to my surprise that after years of no communication, when I had almost forgotten why we were such great friends to begin with, I was in the lobby of a dance studio after a long practice and there was Maria, with the biggest, most excited smile on her face. I’m not quite sure whether she just grew up or I had forgotten what she looked like, but I almost didn’t recognize her. Interestingly enough, with Maria, no matter how much time we didn’t see each other for, we would meet again and it was always as if nothing had changed.

When other people ask me to describe why I’m so eager to spend so much time with her and why I’m so sure of our friendship, all I can say is that it just works. Even though we both always laugh that we are annoyingly head-strong and (characteristically Aries of us) stubborn, the good things in our friendship are something that is very rare to find. So why is it that Maria and I both put up with each other’s very difficult personalities? For me it’s because she’s such a soulful, intelligent and passionate person. With her it’s very easy to sit there for hours and discuss everything from what we had for breakfast that day, to aliens, to our purpose as individuals. She’s the kind of person that strangers open up to, because they feel her genuine care and lack of judgement. Maria is the kind of person to offer her love and wisdom when you’ve hard day, but also kick your butt if you’ve been sulking for too long, because she wants to see those around her be strong, happy and, always learning and evolving….no wonder she’s such a good coach!  As her and I always say, “Soul sister, I refuse to share you with anyone!”…we also get along because we are very silly, her students can tell you about that. One thing is for sure, I thank whatever brought us together daily and those that know her will always agree.

Oh and one last fun fact: everyone always compares her to Megan Fox…green/blue eyes, beautiful slender figure, black hair. In actuality, Maria is naturally almost blonde, so if you want to hear a funny story, ask her what led her to dye her hair jet black one day — just don’t listen to her if she blames it on me!

– Olga Danilova

Maria Shalvarova
My dress rehearsals at GALA Dress Design for the Fall For Dance North – This is a ‘Sneak Peak’ of my Brazilian costume. These fittings are typical, every dancer can relate. Especially if you’re still competing, a new dress is almost mandatory every few competitions.
Maria Shalvarova
When the product is done, you get something like this: Smirks, inflated egos and a whole lotta passion! 😉
We compete several times a month – traveling to the States most often, pursuing podium finishes and titles. It’s an addiction but most importantly it’s our oxygen. So many amazing couples share the floor with us, and it makes me feel incredibly blessed to be doing this.
Maria Shalvarova
This is our studio logo. If someone were to lose me on any given day, they’d immediately know where to find me – Dance Masters Dance Studio. This is my home, my sanctuary, the place where I am the most. They say a home is not where you live, it’s where you are understood and this is it for me! Our students have become our friends, our coaches have become our family. People don’t realize the power of dance until they’ve joined a dance community.
Maria Shalvarova
This picture doesn’t just represent the beautiful studio we have designed – to me it represents the hours of brain-storming, labour and love we put into scaling the walls, painting them, installing the floors, designing, setting up the furniture…We did it all ourselves – the amazing group of people who I love insanely. So this is definitely a daily – I spend alooooot of time with my family everyday.
Maria Shalvarova
I wish I can call this a daily photo- but it’s really more like a monthly one. We take classes and seminars to learn new tricks (especially now, in preparation for Fall For Dance North) to push our boundaries as Latin dancers, to incorporate other fundamentals from different styles. Above is my sister-in-law, who happens to be the Blackpool Cabaret Champion (If you’re a dancer you understand that this is the most prestigious competition in the World). Alla and Egor help us with new tricks and lifts, and it’s always a laugh.
Maria Shalvarova
This melts my heart into a huge bowl of cheesy fondue – I could kiss and squeeze these kids none-stop and they know it!
One of my biggest passions is teaching people to dance, to see their true potential, to put their insecurities to bed. My youngest student is 2.5 years old, and my oldest is 72 years old (so the age gap isn’t too big, haha). But there’re two groups of people that I love to teach above all: kids that are very young and undeveloped – where their brain is pure and non-judgemental…where they have sincere fears and also genuine happiness. And also, those people who have lived for half their lives and are only now discovering their passions, that they want to dance and they want to finally do the things they’ve always loved but never had a chance to do.
Maria Shalvarova
The struggle is real – I’m a true foodie, or let me sub-categorize even more – I’m a true CARB foodie. I love everything sweet, and pastry-looking. Everything cheesy and saucy. But I absolutely adore the gym and any physical exercise, like my current love for boxing and HIIIT. So although I struggle with food control and love to over-indulge (but only Saturdays), I’m also a sports-junky and throw myself into all kinds of different workouts outside my own dancing.

 

Maria Shalvarova
My heart belongs to nature and very often I find myself remembering this simple quote: “Into the woods I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” I think it’s absolutely imperative to remember to soul search and find our purpose in life. To go into the deepest and darkest places of ourselves and discover the courage we need to pursue new goals, and to overcome all mental and physical fears. My parents and my coaches have instilled in me a very wonderful understanding of life – if you are anxious about the future, your present will pass unnoticed and you’ll forever search for depth that’ll never be attained. To enjoy life we must be absolutely happy in the NOW. So I practice shutting off my over-working brain, and to simply feel present. And when you’re present you’re filled with so much joy and gratefulness – life truly becomes heavenly. In this picture I’m at “Toogood Park” in Unionville, Markham. Funny the name, as in that moment I truly felt life is just too good!

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What hood are you in?

I grew up in North York, near Yorkdale Shopping mall, in a small area everyone called “Neptune.” It was definitely the hood of all hoods, quite often I would come face-to- face with the SWAT team crouching around a building ready to bust an operation. Luckily though, as most immigrants, my parents paved the way for us to have a better life here. So now my hood is in Richmond Hill, which if you ask me is like a total farm with not a single sky- scraper in sight and I love it.

What do you do? 

I love this question because it’s so multi-layered. Firstly I’m a daughter, a sister and a loyal friend. Then, I’m a professional Latin dancer and Canadian champion, teacher, choreographer, and student… and as of late a manager at the best studio in the WORLD, Dance Masters Dance Studio (I’m not biased, I’m very realistic!). If you love to dance American and International Latin and Ballroom – come visit us www.dmasters.ca.

What are you currently working on?

My professional partner, Alon Gilin, and I are international competitors so we are always focusing on perfecting our art, our style, our dancing. We practice every day, constantly improving ourselves because unlike any other dance style, we don’t have an off-season.  As of late we’re producing a commissioned piece for the Fall For Dance North festival. It’s very exciting as it’ll be on the Sony stage in downtown Toronto, with a huge array of Canadian and international dancers that’ll captivate you and inspire.

Where can we find your work?

You can find our work in our busy and bustling new studio in Vaughan – Dance Masters Dance Studio where we are constantly showcasing the fresh talent of our students and do a special performance ourselves.  And as mentioned above – buy your ticket to the Fall For Dance North art festival coming up this October. We will showcase our work there – we’re very excited. The festival runs October 5 – 7 and tickets are only $15 each for any seat! You can find more information at http://www.ffdnorth.com.

Our commissioned piece will be the combined work of a team of people, who I can’t help but mention: Our main coaches Aigars Stolcers and Agita Baranovska, and Cabaret choreographers Egor Shalvarov and Alla Profatilova.

 

 

Joel Levy
About Joel Levy 1517 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography